by Barry Dysert
(last updated February 17, 2014)


SyncToy is a small but powerful utility written by Microsoft but not included in Windows. Its purpose is to keep pairs of folders synchronized so that what gets added to one of the folders gets automatically added to the other folder in the pair. You could, therefore, consider SyncToy as a type of backup for files/folders (assuming your pairs of folders are on different drives).

The interface for SyncToy is quite simple. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. SyncToy's startup screen.

From here you can see all of the folder pairs that are being kept in sync and you're also given the option of creating a new folder pair.

You create a new folder pair by clicking the Create New Folder Pair button in the bottom center of the screen. SyncToy immediately presents you with a Wizard that walks you through the process. You have the opportunity to specify the the names of the folders, how you want them synchronized (Synchronize, Echo, or Contribute), and the name of your job. Once the job is created, you can run it to effect the synchronization process or preview what would happen if you did run it.

Another great feature of SyncToy is the ability to run it from the command line. This means you can create a scheduled task to keep your files in sync to within 24 hours. To do this, create a Basic Task whose action is to start a program. The program to start (assuming you install it to its default location) is "C:\Program Files\SyncToy 2.1\SyncToyCmd.exe" and specify the "-R" argument.

SyncToy is a free download. You can find it (and download it) here:

 This tip (12968) applies to Windows 7.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 30 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer.  He is currently a senior software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. ...


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What is eight more than 8?

2014-10-27 16:40:22


Thanks for your help, Barry.
As it happens I tried and found a username and password that I could use for Windows Backup, even though I do not normally require them. So even as I write, Windows Backup is running its first scheduled task.

2014-10-27 14:39:48


You're on Win7 and don't have a username/password? That seems odd (even for a home network). I'm sorry I can't help you, but I can't duplicate the problem on my system (I do have a username/password.) I guess the thing to do is to break down and get another Backup utility. I can't really vouch for any since I haven't used them, but I believe Macrium has a free backup utility, and if you want to spend some money I know that Acronis used to be good. Best of luck.

2014-10-27 12:12:51


Barry,I cannot give you a link to my question as it has not been published (yet)!

The problem is that Backup asks me to enter the username and password that I use to access the network drive to which I want to backup my data. I do not have or need one!

Windows Help tells me:
"You'll need to provide a user name and password so that Windows Backup can access the network location. If you can access the network location from the Computer folder on your computer without having to type a user name or password, type the user name and password that you used to log on to the computer into the Windows Backup UI. "

I do not have or need that either - it is my home PC network and Windows 7 Pro.

Any ideas about how to circumvent this would be most welcome.

2014-10-27 11:24:06


BHershman, I have not seen the separate question you asked. I've used Windows Backup with no problem (on Vista) but haven't tried it on Win7 or Win8. Can you point me to the question you asked?

As I said in my previous comment, you could kludge an incremental backup strategy by creating folders for each day of the week and creating a scheduled task to run SyncToy to that day's folders. After one week they'd start overwriting the previous week's backup.

2014-10-27 10:14:26


I have been using a commercial backup package that did just what I needed. But it is no longer supported so I tried Windows Backup, but without any luck! My problems with setting it up are mentioned in a separate question I asked just today.

2014-10-27 09:58:44


BHershman, not really. I use it to backup my folders every day, but each backup overwrites the previous day's. To do incrementals you'd have to have SyncToy go to different folders depending upon the day. Probably better to just use Windows Backup for that.

2014-10-27 09:47:27


Can SyncToy be used like incremental backup to keep several different versions of files or folders.

2014-02-17 05:22:50

Shreepad S M Gandhi

Thanks Barry. We have been using Windows for years, but never heard that such a utility by Microsoft existed. :)

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